022_artistamp01Since I have a long-standing love/hate relationship with my local post office anyway, I’d like to talk about an art form that is near and dear to my heart: artistamps.

Artistamps go by many different names: faux postage, postoids, cinderellas. All of these terms basically describe an artist-created stamp that is not used as real postage. These stamps are created simply as an art form unto themselves, and are often used to decorate pieces of mail art, envelopes, or used in collage or altered books. Occasionally, the goal is to place them on an envelope so they are canceled just as real stamps are. However, one of the rules of artistamps is that artists must not attempt to defraud the post office by substituting their own artwork for the real thing.

Stamp artists create their work in a variety of ways. Some stamps are made with computer graphics programs, some are rubber stamped or collaged. There are even lines of rubber stamps available that are faux postage designs, to simply stamp and color. Stamps can be created in sheets, individuals, or mimic the commemorative issues designed by the post office. All of this is up to the individual artist.

Possibly the strangest and most wonderful aspect of artistamps is the tendency of some artists to create entire countries as the basis for their stamp designs. Many artistamp web sites come complete with country documentation that varies from etherial to serious to downright hilarious. Two excellent examples of this phenomenon are Arky of Toast and The Poca Post, both of which showcase beautiful stamp designs and creative support materials on their web sites.

Want to get started making your own artistamps? Here’s a blank postoid just waiting to be decorated. I’ll warn you now: once you get started, you won’t be able to stop. This particular type of mail art is extremely addictive. Fortunately, there are many places to swap stamps with other artists. One of the best is the Artistamp group at Yahoo!, which is also a great place to learn more about this fascinating art form.